Scottish travel startup Skyscanner is now officially owned by Chinese online travel giant Ctrip, as the £1.4 billion (USD$1.74 billion) acquisition has been finalized.
The deal was first announced on November 26, and given that it had already been approved by both companies’ directors, it was really just waiting on “customary closing conditions.” But today marks a milestone in what has been a remarkable journey for a company that built a major global business from its HQ in Edinburgh, while taking on relatively little outside investment, for the most part.
Founded in 2003, Skyscanner is one of the world’s largest travel search engines by traffic. The company raised £128 million (USD$192 million) late last year, but for most of its history Skyscanner’s biggest investor was Scottish Equity Partners — which had plowed approximately $4 million into the company in 2007 — though Sequoia Capital followed up with an undisclosed amount in 2013, which reportedly valued Skyscanner at $800 million.
In an interview with VentureBeat last month, Williams explained why he decided to sell, rather than going public. “The combination of operational independence Ctrip affords us was (and is) extremely attractive,” Williams said. “This, combined with the incredible knowledge they bring to Skyscanner and their similar passion for solving the hard problem of travel search, meant it felt like a natural progression for Skyscanner.”
The timing of the sale was also notable as fellow Edinburgh-based unicorn FanDuel had shown its exit cards just a week before, when it revealed plans to merge with fantasy sports rival DraftKings. While FanDuel’s path to merging will likely face some turbulence in the form of scrutiny from antitrust watchdogs, Skyscanner’s exit route has been plain sailing — 15 days from announcement to completion.
“Today marks the day that we move from a private VC-funded company to one that is the strategic partner of Ctrip, one of the most successful online travel companies in the world,” explained Skyscanner cofounder and CEO Gareth Williams. “This is a milestone, but like real milestones, it is at the side of the road and is not the road itself. I am looking forward to working with Ctrip to do all we can to solve the problem of organizing travel — a problem which is far from resolved and one which continues to drive me, personally, as well as everything we strive to do at Skyscanner.”